Northwest soccer rivalry gets national attention

Sep 13, 2012, 10:08 AM | Updated: 10:24 am

This weekend, soccer fans across America will find out what we in Oregon and Washington have known for nearly 40 years: Portland and Seattle have one of the more fierce sports rivalries anywhere.

On Saturday, NBC television takes its national Major League Soccer regular-season coverage to Portland’s Jeld-Wen Field. The man calling the action is no stranger to the rivalry: Arlo White, the popular former Seattle Sounders voice.

I spent a few minutes this week catching up with the busiest man in soccer announcing. White covered both men’s and women’s matches at this summer’s London Olympics, and now wants to show the United States what a real rival soccer derby is all about.

“I was recently on a cross-country flight and the airline magazine had a six-page article on the Sounders-Timbers rivalry with Roger Levesque being the central character,” White said. “And the first paragraph of the article said, ‘Forget the Yankees-Red Sox,’ basically saying the Timbers-Sounders rivalry is the fiercest and biggest in U.S. sports.

“Those who are not familiar with it are about to get their first taste of it Saturday, and I don’t think it will let them down. They’ll be shocked by the ferocity and raucousness of the atmosphere.”

While Portland and Seattle play in sold-out stadiums every game, several MLS teams are struggling to attract and retain fans. I asked White whether this type of rivalry exposure can help boost soccer attendance in other regions.

“You would hope New England would fill their stadium more for regional rivalries with teams like New York, D.C. and Philadelphia, but it doesn’t seem to happen for them,” White said. “Being on NBC and showcasing this rivalry to the nation, seeing how legit Major League Soccer is, could fuel the flames for more rivalries to catch fire.”

Portland won the first meeting 2-1 on its home turf. The Timbers lead the Cascadia Cup standings over Seattle and the Vancouver Whitecaps.

While White has been traveling all over the planet, he has kept close tabs on the Sounders. He’s confident this could be Seattle’s year to make a serious run in the MLS playoffs.

“The starting 11 looks absolutely frightening for the opposition,” he said. “Eddie Johnson has sparked Fredy Montero into a formative life. Is there a better forward striking duo in MLS? I don’t think so.

“There may be a few question marks about their defense, but Seattle will always score goals. I see them mounting a very serious challenge for the Supporters’ Shield and for MLS Cup.”

Seattle fans get the best of both worlds Saturday with White’s NBC television crew and the radio call from Ross Fletcher and Kasey Keller on 97.3 KIRO FM. First kick is at 12:30.

Seattle Sounders FC

Sounders Nicolás Lodeiro...
The Associated Press

Lodeiro scores twice, Sounders draw with San Jose 2-2 in finale

Nicolás Lodeiro had two goals for the Sounders, including one in the first minute, but Seattle settled for a tie with the Earthquakes.
2 months ago
Sounders Sporting KC...
The Associated Press

Sounders lose to KC 1-0, will miss MLS playoffs for 1st time

William Agada scored an all-important goal as Sporting Kansas City earned a 1-0 victory over Seattle, eliminating the Sounders from postseason contention.
2 months ago
Sounders Fredy Montero...
The Associated Press

Fredy Montero helps Sounders draw with FC Cincinnati 1-1

Fredy Montero equalized for Seattle in the second half of a 1-1 draw on Tuesday night that kept the Sounders' slim playoff hopes alive.
2 months ago
Sounders Whitecaps...
SeattleSports.com Staff

Sounders’ playoff chances take a hit with 2-1 loss in Vancouver

The Vancouver Whitecaps downed the Seattle Sounders 2-1 in MLS play on Saturday night thanks to a pair of goals in the first half.
3 months ago
Sounders...
The Associated Press

Ruidiaz scores 2 goals as Seattle Sounders defeat Austin

Raul Ruidiaz scored two goals and the Seattle Sounders beat Austin 3-0 on Saturday night. Both of Ruidiaz's goals were in the first half.
3 months ago
PORTLAND, OREGON - MAY 09: Fredy Montero #12 of Seattle Sounders reacts in the second half against ...
The Associated Press

Montero, Nouhou score, Sounders beat Dynamo 2-1 to stop skid

Fredy Montero scored the deciding goal in a 2-1 win for the Sounders over Houston as Seattle ended a five-game winless streak.
3 months ago
Northwest soccer rivalry gets national attention